I have not been fishing the last two weekends, I needed a break after all the time on the canal and it also co-incided with a few night outs which would have rendered me incapable of fishing (I was still in bed at 1pm on one Sunday...).
As the season ended in March 1988, I went to Northern Ireland for my first trip to the River Bann, this was on the infamous Veals Trip. I'd been told stories of huge weights of roach on the pole and had borrowed a 10 mtr pole from Nigel Saunders and made a few rigs with "German Pole Floats", 6lb maxima and size 8 hooks! On the first day at the boathouse section it rained and rained and rained, my barbour was not able to cope and I was soaked to the skin and freezing. I had 1 roach, great! Things picked up on the 2nd way when I had 28lb of roach on the feeder (as the river was up a bit now) I didn't win any coin but that was my best ever roach catch. The following day I had 23lb on the pole including a 5lb bream which I thought was the bottom! I had about 4 hours sleep every night and was absolutely wrecked every night. I had shared a room with Andy Floyd and on the last morning he couldn't wake me up, in the end he punched me in the bollix, and even then he said I just came round! I think I slept for about 20 of the next 24 hours...
I didn't fish again until June 16th, which was a grind, For ther first 8 weeks I fished on average 4 times a week! This included the Flowerpot Tuesday evening series fished on the Bristol Avon, I ended the series in 2nd place which at the time was my best achievement. I then won a King Billy match at Chequers, again from the cowdrink peg, and I beat Lee Nutland by 1/2oz, which was nice! I came 2nd at Shoal Farm with 11lb on the stick float and these matches were boosting my confidence. For the NFA S/W champs I was running for the Bristol Amalgamation A team, we came 2nd on the day and I was given £25 of the team winnings! The river was flooded and I saw a lot of anglers struggle, catching eels was key and maggot feeder was the "in method".
On October 2nd I was finally fishing my first "A" team ATWL appearance for Bristol Amalgamation. It wasn't great, the dead straight at Avoncliffe gave up 1lb 2oz to mainly waggler, but 9 points from 13 was more than I expected. Unfortunately the team were 5th and Bathampton started well and won the round.
The next round found me drawn at Chequers, a few pegs above the carp hole. The river was in flood and I was apprehensive, but Phil Harding fishing for the B team had walked the section to look at the pegs and said I had a flyer as it was a big slack. Wow it looked good! Roger Amos advised me to fish groundbait feeder 1/3 out, and I did as I was told. With an 18 hook to 1.5lb maxima (std kit for me then) and casters and red maggots on the hook I caught Skimmers, 2 bream, small cub and a few roach for 15lb 1.5oz, enough to the win section. When I got back to the results I was told that my weight was going to frame, and that one other 15lb weight had been caught at Swineford, I assume a higher weight than mine. I finally found the "15lb" angler, a scruffy guy called Nicky Isles, incredibly I had beat him by 1/2oz and won the match, YES! This was one of my personal ambitions acheived. I'd won £150 (about 2 weeks wages for me then) and I bought the whole team a drink. The team came 2nd on the day, but Bathampton won again!
I was 2nd in my section in the next round of the ATWL at Warleigh and my standing in the team was increasing as I was doing well. I remember on the day that down stream of me was the winner Warren Bates with 20lb+ of chub. Always was lucky that Warren...
Two weeks later and I was sitting on Chequers straight (2 below the cow drink) on the Poppy Match, deciding what to set up. In the end I decided one feeder rod, go for skimmers or bust! I started down the middle on the feeder and 2 hours in I was still waiting for a bite. All this time the angler below was catching roach on a crowquill and I had been beating myself up why hadn't I set it up when the tip went round, skimmer no1. 4 Skimmers in the next 5 casts was more like it, and with an 45 mins to go I had 11 skimmers but it had died. Glenn Bailey had packed up and was watching those of us on the straight catching skimmers, he said I was in front but the others were catching up and I needed to do something. So I cast over the far bank to the moored boats and took 6 more skimmers. I weighed 27lb 6oz and won the match, my second ambition achieved, I was in heaven! I remember the stick I got when the result came out in the evening post, the match organiser called me Terry, and 2nd place angler (Graham Hunt) Garry! Ah well never mind, the right name was going on the cup!
So that's where I'll leave it this time, I hope I can get back among the fish this weekend, I'm going back to Cider Farm Lakes Sunday, first time for a while. By the way if you're wondering how I can remember so much detail 20 years ago, since 1987 I've kept a diary where I write just a few notes about the days fishing, pleasure or match it goes in the diary. It's amazing what memories just a few notes can bring back.